NOVEMBER 29, 2006 (OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY) From all indications, upcoming storm "Reming" maybe the second coming of super typhoon "Milenyo."

This, Malacanang warned today as it braced for the newest weather disturbance that, weather charts indicated, would, in all probability, hit the same areas ravaged by "Milenyo" last September.

"We have already alerted all local government units (LGUs) and other agencies in charge of basic services," said National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) deputy chairman Antonio Golez in a regular press briefing of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita in Malacanang this afternoon.

As of 5 a.m. today, he said, the NDCC had activated its emergency operations center in preparation for "Reming" which is expected to hit land tomorrow (Thursday).

"Reming" has been upgraded to a typhoon status by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) since last night because of its center winds of 117 kilometers per hour.

Undersecretary Dr. Graciano Yumul of the Department of Science and Technology-PAGASA said there is a strong possibility that "Reming" could further intensify into a super typhoon if it reaches 185 kph like "Milenyo."

Should this happen, Yumul said, it will mark the first time that three super typhoons have entered the country in a year. Aside from "Milenyo," super typhoon "Paeng" also brought much damage to the countryside.

Golez said the early warnings and advisories of PAGASA prompted the NDCC to issue the warning to all regional offices of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC), agencies like the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

He said the NDCC had requested all billboard owners to put down their tarpolines as early as possible to prevent a possible repeat of the damage wrought by "Milenyo."

"We are requesting all billboard owners to pull down their tarpolines for the meantime and let the typhoon pass before they put them back again," Golez said.

If it does not change its path, typhoon "Reming" would hit Central Luzon and could affect Metro Manila, according to Yumul.

The track line also indicated that "Reming" would hit Catanduanes province Thursday morning, land on Quezon and Aurora provinces before proceeding towards Central Luzon. By Friday morning, it is expected to cross Pangasinan on the way out of the country.

GMA out of hospital, returns to work The Philippine Star 11/28/2006

President Arroyo left the hospital yesterday after a weekend checkup found her in generally good health, doctors said.

Mrs. Arroyo’s physician, Juliet Cervantes, denied speculations that the President was suffering from an undisclosed illness that led to her third visit to the hospital this year.

"Everything was normal," Cervantes said at a news conference Sunday.

Mrs. Arroyo gained a little weight and, although her weight gain was still within acceptable levels, "we asked her to be a little more watchful of her weight and diet," Cervantes said.

The President was hospitalized for two days in late June after suffering from diarrhea, which doctors said was triggered by stress that had lowered her resistance to infection. She was back in the hospital a month later with the flu.

"There is nothing to hide," Cervantes said. "There was just a lot of stories going on, but I think the numbers and results would show otherwise."

Back to normal

The President returned to her normal activities after her executive checkup over the weekend but was asked to keep one important thing in mind: Take everything in moderation.

Mrs. Arroyo and First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo left St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) at 9:30 a.m. and dropped by Malacañang before proceeding to her 10:00 a.m. engagement at the Hyatt Hotel and Casino in Manila for the 2nd Philippines-Spain Tribune Forum.

During an informal interaction with barangay leaders later at 11 a.m. at the Philippine Skills Assessment Academy Inc. in Pandacan, Manila, Mrs. Arroyo ate a hamburger and drank iced tea.

Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor said in a telephone interview that there really is nothing wrong with the President and he admitted that Mrs. Arroyo "has very good appetite and eats a lot."

"So the doctors said there would be no restrictions on food she could take. She’s allowed to eat anything she wants — in moderation," Defensor said. "She can also drink anything she likes, in moderation as well, just any normal, healthy person of her age."

The physicians who attended to the First Couple during their comprehensive executive checkup said the two are healthy but must lose weight.

Cervantes said she would recommend a low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet for the First Gentleman.

Defensor, meanwhile, dismissed speculations that Mrs. Arroyo was suffering from a liver ailment. He said the President’s "bulges" were caused by her healthy appetite, not a serious illness.

He also said Cervantes, who is a liver specialist, was only assigned as the SLMC spokesperson regarding Mrs. Arroyo’s health — not necessarily because she is the President’s attending physician.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said he once had an executive checkup and a heart specialist supervised it even if he did not have a heart problem. Bunye also suffers from a slipped disc.

Defensor said there will be no changes in the President’s schedule, which she already cut after her hospitalization in August.

"It’s funny when people say she’s sick. You should see her eat," Defensor added.

Mrs. Arroyo went straight to her public engagements after checking out from St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) in Quezon City at 9:30 a.m. with Mr. Arroyo. The First Couple was confined at the SLMC on Saturday for a two-day executive checkup.

When asked by an elderly female resident if she has recovered from her illness, Mrs. Arroyo replied: "Wala naman akong sakit. Nagpacheckup lang po ako (I don’t have any illness. I just had a checkup)."

Clarifications needed

Senators said the President should reveal her true state of health, though Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. agreed with the Palace’s pronouncements that Mrs. Arroyo has a clean bill of health.

"The doctors spoke clearly and we have no reason to doubt them, (but) it would also be good to remind (these doctors) that it is important for the nation to be informed about the President’s state of health," Villar said.

Former health secretary and now Senate President Pro Tempore Juan Flavier said the SLMC doctors’ assurance that Mrs. Arroyo is doing well "is enough."

Flavier, a doctor by profession, also advised the President that following her physician’s advice to lose weight is "sound advice."

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan said there should be no doubts about the President’s health because she is up and about and back at work.

However, Sen. Franklin Drilon said: "The people have a right to know about the state of the President’s health... The President is not an ordinary citizen. The affairs of the country depend on the state of the President’s health."

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who has been calling for Mrs. Arroyo’s resignation, had some kind words for her, after a fashion: "Let us pray that (the President) comes to no harm. I still want her out of office... but not (because of ill) health."

The opposition bloc in the House of Representatives also said the President’s advisers should confer with her doctors and arrange a press conference to dispel insinuations that Mrs. Arroyo is suffering from a liver ailment.

"This time the President, the Palace or the executive department should tell the Filipino people the truth about her health. A press conference with her doctors is in order," proposed House Deputy Minority Leader Rolex Suplico.

"Like everybody else, I, too, received text messages, that the President is in a worst condition. But we don’t want to believe the rumors. They have to make a full disclosure so that all these rumors will come to a stop," he said.

Even if they belong to the opposition camp, the Iloilo City congressman clarified they are also "concerned" with the President’s state of health: "We are concerned. We are worried that the rumors will reach overdrive."

"Whether it (illness) is serious or not, it is incumbent upon the doctors to say what ails the President," Suplico said, invoking a provision in the Constitution that requires the President to divulge her real medical condition.

Article 7 Section 12 of the 1987 Constitution provides that "in case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health." Cabinet members, national security advisers and the AFP chief should have "access" to the President at such times.

The President — under Article 7 Section 11 — should also transmit to the Senate president and Speaker a "written declaration that he (or she) is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."

In this case, the Vice President takes over as the "acting President." But if the President informs the Senate president and the Speaker that no inability exists, the President automatically reassumes the powers of her office.

Earlier, Ilocos Norte Rep. Imee Marcos — the eldest daughter of the late and ousted President Ferdinand Marcos — urged Mrs. Arroyo not to imitate her father, who concealed his lupus ailment.

"Hiding the President’s state of health is a disaster waiting to happen," Marcos said. "Speculations will continue to hound the presidency and question her mental and physical fitness."

No need for disclosure

Bunye chided the President’s detractors for trying to make an issue of the President’s health even as he brushed aside the opposition’s demands that Mrs. Arroyo disclose the full details of her medical checkup.

"I can say without fear of contradiction that the President is healthier and stronger than most of her detractors," Bunye said in a press briefing, though he stopped short of naming these detractors.

He said it would be up to Mrs. Arroyo’s critics to submit themselves to executive checkups because it is a "common practice" for people at a certain age to submit themselves to such a medical examination every one or two years.

The Department of Health (DOH) recommends that every person undergo a routine checkup at least once a year.

Bunye added that even some members of the Cabinet find it difficult to keep pace with the President. He said the President had a penchant for calling Cabinet meetings immediately upon arrival from hectic foreign trips.

There is no need to disclose the full details of Mrs. Arroyo’s medical examinations as demanded by opposition leaders, Bunye said. "In our view, the medical bulletins issued by the hospital are enough and the hospital, by the way, also has its own rules regarding patient records. Nothing can be more authoritative (on Mrs. Arroyo’s checkup) than the hospital bulletin itself."

He said the administration’s critics are correct in citing the Constitution on the President’s health but added that the constitutional provisions they cited refer only to cases of serious ailments or serious disability: "We don’t have to be a doctor to see that the President is very active, very healthy and she maintains a regular schedule."

He also said Mrs. Arroyo also been keeping up her twice-weekly aerobics exercises at the Palace despite her busy schedule. — Aurea Calica, Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Christina Mendez and AP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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